“The map is not the territory,” wise explorers counsel. That old adage seems to apply to the Simi Hills, which appear as little more than a narrow band between suburbs on the map, but on the ground present some challenging territory to hike. The Simi Hills have a distinct identity when viewed up-close. Somehow the sky-scraping sedimentary rock formations seem all the more awesome towering over flatland neighborhoods.
The reddish-orange sandstone outcroppings of the Simi Hills, dating from the Tertiary and Mesozoic periods 60 to 80 million years ago, form a dramatic backdrop and it’s easy to see why these rugged hills were a popular setting for Western movies.
China Flat Trail is an excellent (but not easy) introduction to the Simi Hills. It leads to China Flat, perched on the wild west side of the National Park Service’s Cheeseboro Canyon Site. The trail’s return loop contours high over the shoulder of 2,403-foot Simi Peak, highest summit in the Simi Hills.
A one-block neighborhood stroll links trail’s end with the trailhead.
China Flat Trail is a bit of a misnomer; the trail is anything but flat. And China Flat itself, while of more level relief than surrounding Simi peaks, will never be confused with one of those truly flat Flats found in other mountain ranges.
From the Ventura Freeway (101) in Westlake Village, exit on Lindero Canyon Road and head north 4 miles. A few blocks from the trailhead, Lindero Canyon Road bends east. Look for the signed trailhead on the left (north) side of the road between King James Court and Wembly Avenue. Park on Lindero Canyon Road.
Follow the trail north up a short, steep hill. Here a connector trail rising from King James Court meets the path. Continue on the main (China Flat) trail as it ascends past a sandstone formation. After climbing some more, the path gentles a bit and contours east to an unsigned junction. Keep to the left (north) and begin a stiff climb toward the ridgeline.
Finally the trail gains the ridge and you en¬counter another unsigned junction. Bear left and continue an ascent along the ridge to a saddle and yet another trail junction. Take the left fork (trekkers bound for Cheeseboro Canyon will take the right fork.) and begin a moderate descent.
Views from the shoulder of Simi Peak include Westlake Village, Agoura Hills and other communities clustered on the Ventura-Los Angeles County line, as well as the peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The trail ends at a gate on King James Court. Follow this short street one block down to Lindero Canyon Road and your vehicle.
Interested in more hikes in Ventura County? Check out my “HIKE Ventura County Pocket Guide” at The Trailmaster Store